Azkals beat Myanmar to make semis

Philippines are through to the semi-finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup once again after recording a 2-0 win over Myanmar in their final Group B game on Friday evening.

It takes three men to stop Guirado in full flight.

By Gabriel Tan at the Suphachalasai Stadium

Two years after progressing to the last four in the competition for the first time in their history, the Azkals repeated the feat by grabbing the three points they needed to secure their progress, courtesy of clinical second-half goals from Phil Younghusband and Angel Guirado.

Qualifying for the semi-finals also capped off a remarkable comeback by them, after they had opened the campaign with a 2-1 defeat to co-hosts Thailand, before getting back on track with a 1-0 victory over Vietnam on Tuesday.

The win over the Vietnamese meant Philippines could guarantee their passage with a win over Myanmar and with the knowledge that their fate was in their own hands, Philippines started the game brightly and called Thiha Sithu into action as early as the fourth minute, when he had to scramble to his near post to keep out a deft freekick by Younghusband.

Four minutes later, Younghusband had another effort on target when he found space 25 yards out and tried his luck, but the opposition keeper was once again alert to the danger and got down well to make the save.

Despite his failure to find the net in the Azkals' opening two games, the 25-year-old was showing no signs of letting it get to him and he fired in another blistering effort in the 17th minute that Thiha Sithu smartly parried to safety.

While their opponents were enjoying the stronger start, Myanmar did look dangerous down the flanks, and fashioned their first real chance on the half-hour mark when Thein Than Win broke free down the left and whipped in a dangerous cross. Thankfully for Philippines, Dennis Cagara was on hand to head clear before Yan Paing could pounce.

Nonetheless, the Azkals continued to look the more adventurous of the two teams and had another chance to open the scoring on the stroke of halftime when Younghusband and Guirado linked up well to release Patrick Reichelt, only for him to drill a cross behind the former, who had made up good ground to be an option inside the area.

Still, there was to be no denying Philippines two minutes into the second half and unsurprisingly, it was Younghusband who broke the deadlock, cleverly bringing an over-the-top ball from Jason de Jong past his man with a delightful first touch, before skipping around another challenge and placing his shot into the bottom corner.

Nine minutes later, the White Angels had an excellent chance to equalise when a dangerous left-wing cross from Pyaye Phyo Aung found the unmarked Kaung Sithu, but his first touch was too heavy and allowed Eduard Sacapano to race out and gather before he could fire a shot away.

Two minutes before the hour mark, Philippines were unlucky not to edge further ahead when a delightful freekick from Dennis Cagara was met with a glancing header by Guirado that came back off the post. The rebound fell straight to James Younghusband but he had to react quickly and could only send a tame first-time effort straight at a relieved Thiha Sithu.

Needing a goal quick to keep alive his side's chances, Myanmar coach Park Sung-hwa decided to bring on Soe Kyaw Kyaw on for the ineffective Kaung Sithu with 14 minutes remaning, and seconds after coming on, he had a gilt-edged chance to level the scores when Yan Aung Kyaw found himself unmarked with a lovely cross, only for him to screw his header from 15 yards wide.

Nonetheless, that was the final chance they could muster as they failed to find a way past the dominant Azkals, who went on to wrap up the win in injury-time when Guirado broke in behind the Myanmar defence and raced towards goal, before clipping the ball over the onrushing Thiha Sithu.

Philippines: Eduard Sacapano, Carli de Murga, Rob Gier, Juan Luis Guirado, Dennis Cagara, James Younghusband (Demitrius Omphroy 90'), Jason de Jong, Paul Mulders, Patrick Reichelt (Emelio Caligdong 80'), Phil Younghusband, Denis Wolf (Angel Guirado 36').

Myanmar: Thiha Sithu, David Htan, Zaw Zaw Oo, Zaw Min Tun, Thien Than Win (Pyaye Phyo Aung 54'), Kyi Lin, Yan Aung Kyaw, Khin Maung Lwin, Aung Moe, Kaung Sithu (Soe Kyaw Kyaw 76'), Yan Paing (Thet Naing 54').

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